The properties along Cedar Boulevard hit by last May’s landslide in Sunshine Valley are still covered with tree debris. Homeowners are now seeking compensation from the provincial government for their losses.

Slide victims seek compensation

Sunshine Valley residents want government to buy back properties

Residents in Sunshine Valley are frustrated that virtually nothing has been done since a landslide crashed down on their homes almost eight months ago.

The five properties along Cedar Boulevard are still sitting with trees and debris from the slide on May 26. There are also no safeguards in place to protect the properties from future hazards.

“Basically the slide is in the state that it was when it occurred except there is more debris that keeps coming down the slope all the time,” said Jim Benbaruj, who looks after his parents’ property in Sunshine Valley.

The slide was 225 metres long and 25 metres wide at the start. The width grew to about 75 metres by the time it stopped. It stripped vegetation from the slope and diverted a stream into properties below, causing extensive flooding. The slide also forced a neighbouring shed to push up against Benbaruj’s cabin.

“Since there is nothing to stop it (the stream) coming down, whenever we get rain it just pools in the backyard, right up against and underneath the cottage there and the cottages to the east,” he said.

Homeowners say they feel unsafe and threatened by future land/snow slides in the area. A geotechnical report conducted by Golder Associates found there to be a high annual probability of additional landslides on the slope.

The same report also found there is no longer enough setback from the toe of the mountain to rebuild or allow future development on the properties.

Residents are now seeking compensation from the provincial government for their losses. They want their properties purchased back at fair market value as they are no longer livable or sellable.

Benbaruj said his parents’ property was assessed at $190,000 in 2011, and this year is valued at $70,700.

The other four properties have also dropped in value in 2012. They are now assessed between $27,800 and $33,400.

Illa France Porcher owns one of the three neighbouring properties to the east that is now considered part of the danger zone. She is concerned for her safety.

“If more comes down, it would hit us,” said Porcher, adding she’s shocked nothing has been cleaned up in the forest.

The three homeowners in the danger zone have also requested their properties be bought back from the government.

Residents sent a letter to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in October detailing their requests, but are still waiting for a response from government officials.

Thomas Chhun, acting Fraser Valley operations manager with the ministry, confirmed the buyout requests are under review in Victoria.

“With these things they do take time,” he said.

“It’s not something simple and it does have the potential to impact a lot of people. We have to do our due diligence and gather the necessary information before making a decision.”

Area B Electoral Director Dennis Adamson supports the resident’s fight for compensation and feels the government hasn’t acted quickly enough.

“It happened last May and they’re still stalling on this,” said Adamson. “Crown land fell on their property. The longer we wait, the harder it is on these people.”

The Fraser Valley Regional District assists residents during an emergency, but typically steps away after the initial response. Adamson isn’t convinced the threat in Sunshine Valley is over. He’s currently looking into how the regional district can help residents living in the area.

“Looking at it logically, it’s going to spread,” he said.

“Unless you take actions to stop further erosion, it’s going to get worse. It’s a hazard.”

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